Thursday, December 31, 2009

"For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds." - Psalm 149:4-5
Do you carry pictures of your family to show the entire world? Some people carry around a ton of pictures in their wallets. They have pictures of wives, husbands, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews and nieces. When you see the size of some guy's wallets you understand why they sit lopsided all the time. People carry pictures of those they deeply love and that fill their hearts with joy. With this thought in mind, someone once said that God carries your picture in his wallet. What an honor!
It's a wonderful thing to know that God loves you. But have you ever thought that he "delights" in you? Do you remember when Satan came before God in the book of Job? One of the first things God said was, "Have you considered my servant Job...?"  It's a very humbling thought, but God brags about his children. He delights in them and crowns them with salvation. What an honor!
 Tomorrow will bring a new year with hopes of better days ahead. But, whether they be better or worse, one truth will remain the same; you are loved and God will carry you through it all. How do I know this you ask? Because he delights in you and he carries your picture in his wallet!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

““Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." - Revelation 22:12-14

The year my son and I began to follow the San Francisco 49ers they lost their season opener to the Philadelphia Eagles with a score of 40-8. We both wondered if this was a team worth following. That same year the 49ers went to the Super Bowl and steamrolled over the San Diego Chargers 49-26, becoming the first team to win a record five Super Bowls. You see the beginning doesn't always determine the final outcome.
As we open our Bibles and begin with the first three chapters of Genesis, we find Adam and Eve prohibited from eating of the tree of life and escorted through the Garden gates. Their sin brought about the fall of all mankind and eternal separation from God. History tells the sad tale of continued rebellion and godless living throughout the ages. Would there be any hope for ever returning to the Garden and the tree of life? The last page of our Bibles gives a resounding YES!.  "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." You see the beginning doesn't always determine the final outcome.
Did this past year start with a cascade of failures? Do you feel that there will be nothing "new" about the New Year? Well, you can end this year successfully by coming to the Lord for a new beginning. Jesus is one beginning that will always determine the final outcome because...  He is the "Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God... I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." - Revelation 21:3;22-23
"Home is where the heart is". We all know that a house in nothing more than wood, brick and mortar. But, a house becomes a home through the love of family. Church buildings are made of the same materials as houses, only bigger and more ornate. Whether the temple of old or the churches down the block, they are nothing but buildings without the glory of God's presence. Church is where the Lord is.
If there is no house of worship in heaven since the Lord is the temple, what about that building we meet in from Sunday to Sunday? The church building, as the temple, was never meant to be anything other than a place where the people of God gathered to commune with and worship the Lord of Glory. Until we get to heaven, God has blessed places where his people can assemble together to meet with Him. When we become caught up in the beauty of the building and all its trimmings, we end up with nothing more than a building. Church is where the Lord is.
Do you look for the Lord when you attend church on Sundays? Are you listening for his voice to speak to you heart? When you leave church to enter the week ahead, do people notice that you have been with Jesus?  Church is where the Lord is.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." - Revelation 20:14-15
"Say it ain't so Joe... say it ain't so!" There are circumstances in life that are just too horrible to think about. So, what do we do? We will find some way to put them out of our minds, or we'll rework the facts so they don't sound so bad. Better yet, we just deny their reality.
The fact of eternal condemnation is one of those horrible truths that many people want to deny. We are so happy to embrace the promise of eternal life for the believer, but heaven forbid that anyone who rejects Christ suffer the pains of an eternal hell. Setting apart all the arguments of why this makes sense theologically, may we just accept the written Word of God as true? "If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." 
Is your name written in the book of life? It is if you have trusted Jesus Christ alone as your only means of Salvation. Are the names of your family, friends and neighbors in the book? If so, you have reason to rejoice, if not there's a word from Jude 23 for you... "...snatch others from the fire and save them".

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) "  - Revelation 19:6-8
I arrived at church quite early that day. A feeling of excitement and expectation filled my heart. Family and friends came in with pleasant greetings and were seated by well dressed ushers. Time quickly passed and I found myself at the front of the church looking down the aisle at the most radiant and stunning bride I had ever seen. It was my wedding day and I was overwhelmed with joy.
The day is coming when we, the church will be the bride in the greatest wedding of the ages. We will come to that day after millenniums of waiting. Centuries filled with God's people patiently waiting will have come and gone. All the hopes of years gone by will finally be realized. It will be our wedding day and we will be overwhelmed with joy.
Are you weighed down with the pressure and stress of living? Do you wonder if life is just about preparing and never arriving? Does it seem that we have been waiting for Jesus forever? Be assured my friend that the wedding day is on God's calendar and will take place on time. So live and serve in hope and great expectation. Our wedding day is coming... and we will be overwhelmed with joy.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes" - Revelation 18:4-5
What is it that allures us to pursue the pleasures and treasures of the World? We believe that we are mature adults, but we are often drawn into dangerous paths just like a child is tempted by a lollypop in the hands of an abductor. Just when we think it's all good, the tentacles of materialism wrap around us, leading us farther away from God and further into sin. It is for good reason that the Scriptures warn us... "Come out of her, my people..."
John wrote earlier in 1 John 2:15, "Do not love the world or anything in the world." Some believers look upon these words as light and archaic words of counsel. But the day is coming when the "world" and all its wealth will come to an abrupt end, along with those who have used and abused the "bodies and souls of men" (vs. 13) Why would anyone trade the eternal treasures of heaven for the pleasures of sin for season? It is for good reason that the Scriptures warn us... "Come out of her, my people..."
The New Years Eve parties are coming this next week. Where will you be? New enticements will come your way in the months ahead, how will you choose? Will your New Year's resolutions include more time seeking God's kingdom and less time in pursuing worldly trinkets? Recognize the world for what it is and for heaven's sake...  "Come out of her, my people..."

Friday, December 25, 2009

"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." - Proverbs 31: 10-12
Today is a day of giving. The gifts around the tree speak of love for one another, yet there are other gifts that far outshine anything purchased and wrapped in sparkling paper. The greatest gift that I ever received was a personal relationship with my Lord Jesus, and that's what Christmas is really all about. My life is rich beyond belief because of the love of God and... the love of my amazing wife. I rise and call her blessed.
I look around this morning and see a beautiful home so well decorated for the season. I smell the incredible odors of great food being prepared for a Christmas feast. Then I see the faces of our two sons and daughter that beam with joy and laughter. And as I consider this and so much more, there is no question...I lack nothing of value because, after Jesus, my greatest gift is a wife of noble character named Jayne. On this Christmas morn, with a heart overflowing with love and gratitude, I rise and call her blessed. 
You see, Christmas is all about God's love for people and because of that love our marriages and families are richer than anything the world could offer. Christmas is about relationships and their great value. You may not have a wife or husband today, but look around and see those who love you and be filled with joy and thanksgiving. Be blessed with the Love of Jesus and the love of others this Christmas morn.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled." - Revelation 17:17
Sacred and secular... We live within a world system that has systematically separated God from man. Michelangelo's iconic image of God giving life to Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is by hand touching hand. Our humanistic society is no longer in touch with God and has neatly placed him in a far off box called "sacred".  Did God simply touch Adam and leave the scene? Does God come into our schedules at Christmas, only to receive a fond farewell at New Years? Is God really involved in the whole of history, or just the sacred part?
In the end of days we are told that kings will relinquish their powers to another because God put it into their hearts. The events we read about in the book of Revelation are the final accomplishing of God's purpose in HIS world. In the eyes of God there is no such dichotomy as sacred and secular, because it's all His Story!
As you celebrate Christmas and soon enter a new year, remember that God is at work in both. He has entered time and space to redeem mankind and he raises and lowers kings and nations to achieve his purposes. Trust him as Savior and rest in him as Sovereign. It's all His Story! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” - Revelation 16:15 (NIV)
I was sitting in my office when the phone rang. The voice on the other end was shaken as the message was given "A plane has just crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City". Within a very short time, 2,973 people who woke up that morning would never again wake up in this life. The suddenness and the horror of that day will never be forgotten and it has changed our daily lives in many ways. It makes you think of what some believe Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto stated after the attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." But...are we really awake?
Jesus is coming again, and this time he will bring judgment that is true and just. He spoke of his second coming in Matthew 24:42 with similar words, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." Yet, when he comes most people will be as much surprised as those on September 11, 2001 because they won't be watching. Because of wrong priorities and pursuits their spiritual condition will be embarrassing... they will be unprepared and asleep. 
How is your spiritual life today? Do you know Christ as your Savior? If you do, are you living a life that will be pleasing to him when he returns? Can you say without reservation that you are waiting for his return with expectation? Remember the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 6: "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief...  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled."  Jesus is coming... so stay awake my friends!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

“They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” - Revelation  15:3-4

There is George Frideric Handel's oratorio "Messiah", composed in 1741 and then there is "The Young Messiah" originally entitled "Messiah XXI", produced and arranged by Frank McNamara in 1999. They present one great message through two different types of music. The underlying basis for the oratorio remained the same over 258 years. Time changes the way we express ourselves musically, but time will never change the One who is "the same yesterday and today and forever". (Hebrews 13:8)
One song was sung; the song of Moses and the Lamb. The truth of God's great and marvelous deeds was proclaimed thousands of years ago and will be thousands of years from now. God never changes, and for that reason all the nations will eventually come and worship before him. Time, with all its changes and all the differences of generations will come together in one song of praise. Does it matter what musical arrangement is chosen? One tune or the other, we will eternally worship and praise the One who is "the same yesterday and today and forever.
Let's not become so caught up in our musical differences of likes and dislikes that we miss out on the glorious worship and praise of the One who is "the same yesterday and today and forever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth." - Revelation 14:1-3 (NIV)

Christmas is a time of wonderful songs of joy. Just about every Christmas movie comes with Christmas songs. Some communities celebrate Christmas with concerts and special performances of Handel's Messiah. I see people in our Christmas services that come only once a year, but they sing the Christmas hymns with great gusto. In the words of Josiah G. Holland, "There's a song in the air!"
Yet, there's a song that runs deeper than "a song in the air". The Lord has placed a new song in the heart of those who follow him. David wrote in Psalm 40:3..." He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.". When Paul and Silas were found chained in prison they "were praying and singing hymns to God" (Acts 16:25). You see, God gives new songs to all who have been redeemed throughout the ages. For those who love the Lord..."There's a song in the heart!"
Does Christmas bring you songs of joy that have been hidden away since last year? Or, do you have a song in your heart every day of the year? The last words of Holland's song read, "And we greet in his cradle our Savior and King!" When Jesus becomes YOUR Savior and King there's more than a song in the air... "There's a song in your heart"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world." - Revelation 13:8 (NIV)
Oil and water don't mix. They never have mixed and they never will mix. You can freeze them or you can boil them, but they will never mix. They are both liquids and seem to show similar qualities from a distance, but they are just different. Seals and otters need water to live, but when they swim out into spilled oil, they eventually die.
In the end, when the days of tribulation come upon the earth, the great distinction between believers and unbelievers will be seen. Believers have new hearts that worship God alone, and their names are written in the book of the Lamb. Unbelievers have no heart for God and their names are not written in God's book, so they will gladly worship the anti-Christ. When it comes down to worship and eternal destiny, believers and unbelievers don't mix. They never have mixed and they never will mix.
An old phrase comes to mind on this subject. "Be in the world, but not of the world, be in contact with the world, but not in contract with the world". While we strive with all diligence to lead unbelievers to Jesus, remember the stark difference. At the end of the day, unbelievers will worship anything and anyone before they will worship God. In contrast, we who are believers only worship our Lord. Don't be confused... believers and unbelievers don't mix.    

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." - Revelation 12:10-11 (NIV)
"And now, the rest of the story" So were the closing words of Paul Harvey, in radio broadcasts that spanned over seventy years. His commentaries covered everything from news to human interest stories. At every broadcast the listener would intently follow the story line, waiting with anticipation for "the rest o the story".
In today's passage we have one of the Bible's great revelations. While spiritual battles are fought furiously throughout the ages, one encouraging truth overshadows all of them. The accuser of our brothers has been hurled down. In other words, Satan looses and Jesus wins. As the words say in one of Ron Kenoly's songs; "Jesus is the winner man". Now, "that's the rest of the story"!
Today may bring highly discouraging moments and you may feel defeated. Stay true to the blood of the Lamb and to your testimony of faith and you will overcome. The battle may seem overwhelming and your strength may wane, but don't give up. Just remember, "Jesus is the winner man". That's the life changing, all inspiring and everlasting "rest of the story".

Friday, December 18, 2009

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." - Proverbs 30:5 (NIV) 
The Christmas story that tells of the Magi is filled with intrigue. In the midst of a beautiful moment of joyful worship a warning is sent to lead the wise men safely home. Shortly afterward, Joseph is directed to flee to Egypt for the protection of the young child. The atmosphere of tranquil peace with family and friends was so quickly upset by approaching danger. At a moment like that, just the right word from the Lord was a welcomed shield from the coming storm. Every word of God is flawless.
In the Christmas story God spoke through Angels and dreams, but today he speaks to us through the precious words of Scripture. He gives us counsel, comfort and correction as needed. He always has just the right word for every situation. The storms will come, even to the child of God; we are not exempt from the dangers life. But, those who take refuge in the Lord will always find his word to be the perfect shield for safety. Every word of God is flawless.
Your life may not be as filled with the same intrigue as those days in Bethlehem, but you will still need a shield for the battles ahead. Every challenge will be unique and will require insight from someone who is far wiser than the Magi. Let the Lord be your refuge today because... Every word of God is flawless.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds...Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit." - Psalm 147:3, 5
I have served the Lord in the pastorate for thirty-two years. Over those years I have visited people with all kinds of injuries and illnesses. I have seen some in the greatest pain a body can experience, but the one condition that seems to overshadow them all is the broken heart. I have looked into the eyes of those who lost a young son, or a wife, or a husband, or a parent at an unexpected age. The brokenness lasts longer and the wound runs deeper than any bodily hurt. The heart is tender.
There are never enough words or the right words to comfort the broken heart. There are never enough books to read or counselors to see to heal the wound. There is only one Physician who can reach down into the depths of your soul to restore. He is the one whose understanding has no limit. Only the Lord knows how to heal the hurting heart, because... His heart is tender too.
Others will weep with you and try their best to comfort you when your heart is hurting, but the Lord is touched and moved with compassion with your pain. From years of experience I can say without a doubt; He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Go to the Lord with your brokenness because... His heart is tender for you.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign." - Revelation 11:15-17 
Another date to fear has surfaced: 2012. Theories are running rampant as to what will happen to the world on December 21, 2012. The real heartbeat of fear is rooted in man's limited view of God's plan. Many see this world as their only source of hope. If the kingdom of this world should end: what then? The words of the prophet say this world will end, but he also says that another world is coming. A world where evil will be judged and destroyed and God's people, small and great, will be rewarded. There is reason to hope.
The angel told Mary that her child would "reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:33) This part of the Christmas announcement is so often passed over. This world with all its bells and whistles is going to be replaced with the kingdom of God and Christ shall reign forever. Christmas is a date, which we should never fear. This day is the birthday of a King who will, one day soon, take his great power and begin to reign. This is reason to hope.
Christmas may not bring all the joy and celebration to you that others experience. It may be a day that you fear because you feel empty and unsure of the year that will follow. You may feel that this world has let you down in many ways. Well, Christmas can be a joyful day if you will fall before the King of Kings, open your heart and invite him into your life. The future kingdom will become a "present" kingdom when he reigns in you. This is reason to hope.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” - Revelation 10:5-7 (NIV) 
Every year in late November the Christmas countdown begins. The decorations and songs are seen and heard even earlier. Christmas is coming and everyone is gearing up for the big day. We know Christmas is coming, and we know the exact day it will be celebrated. The first Christmas came in the same way, as God knew he was coming and knew the exact day he would arrive... and he wasn't late!
Jesus is coming again, first to judge the world and then to reign on the throne of David. This coming was announced to his prophets in the very same way as it was for his first coming. That day is coming just like the first Christmas came and with it God's long expected work will be accomplished and age old questions will finally be answered.
Are you gearing up for the Second Coming in the same way you prepare for Christmas? Are you excited and filled with great expectation? Are you telling the story of Christ in the clouds as often as you tell the story of Christ in the manger? Do you live as if you had a Second Coming countdown? No one on earth knows the time, but God has the date set on his calendar... and he won't be late!

Monday, December 14, 2009

"They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads." - Revelation 9:4
Over the years we all collect official documents. We have birth certificates, diplomas, marriage certificates, military discharges and some may have property deeds. If you take a careful look at these documents you will see something that makes them official. Yes, you will find a seal that verifies their authenticity for all legal purposes. Therefore, you will protect and preserve them above all other papers because... without the seal, there is no deal.
God set apart a number of people during this time of great judgment that were his alone. They were given a seal to verify their identity and protect them from the horrors of those days. Just as the Lord will protect those who are sealed during the tribulation, he will protect those who are sealed today from the horrors of coming judgment. Consider the great truth that Paul recorded for us in Ephesians 1:13-14, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."
If you place your faith in Jesus Christ alone, as your only means of salvation, you will be born again and sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. As a result, God will protect you and preserve you until you come safely home to him and receive a guaranteed inheritance. But remember, this is promised only to those who are sealed because... without the seal, there is no deal.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake." - Revelation 8:3-5
Have you ever stopped praying for something because too much time had passed? How much time is too much time? A godly man of the nineteenth century named George Mueller decided to pray for the salvation of five close friends. Four came to Christ during his life, but after fifty-two years, Mueller died without the last one being converted. Mueller never gave up praying and a few months after he died, the last friend trusted Christ. Never forget that prayer is timeless.
Do you pray for God's Kingdom to come? Jesus taught us to pray for this and yet, after centuries of God's people praying, there is no earthly kingdom. Don't be discouraged, because John saw your prayers and the prayers of the ages offered up before the throne. The sweet incense of prayer is an important part of the coming of God's Kingdom on earth. Never forget that prayer is timeless.
The birth of Christ came after centuries of God's people praying for the coming of their Messiah. Jesus is coming again to bring final justice and eternal righteousness in answer to the prayers of his people. Don't give up praying and looking above for the coming of Christ. Never forget that prayer is timeless.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." - Proverbs 29:25
Christmas stories are virtually beyond number. Some are funny, some are romantic and some are nostalgic. Most are pleasant tales that warm the heart and stir the emotions. One of my favorite stories is the true event of the Magi that came from the east to worship the Lord Jesus. It wasn't funny, romantic or nostalgic, it was just thought provoking and inspiring. The story tells of men who trusted the Lord and were kept safe.
Solomon wrote the words of this passage, as the wisest man in the world. Centuries later other wise men traveled from the east and again proved the proverb true. These men were not impressed with King Herod, nor did they fear him. They had followed the Star and trusted the Lord to guide their way. As a result, being warned in a dream, the Lord kept them safe from a very jealous and dangerous King.     
Are you like those in the Magi story that were troubled when the King was troubled? Are you afraid of men and their power... afraid of what men may do to harm you? Or are you a truly wise person who trusts in the Lord and are kept safe? You see, not only do wise men still seek him... wise men still trust him!

Friday, December 11, 2009

"I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah" - Psalm 143:5-6
What was your very favorite Christmas? You might say, "This one". But Christmas time brings memories of all kinds. Hopefully many of those memories are pleasant thoughts of joyful times. Above all the seasonal and family celebrations, do you reflect on the works of the Lord and what his hands have done? Christmas is really a time to consider one special night in Bethlehem, a long, long time ago. Christmas is a time to remember.
When you put your tree up this year remember the one who created all the trees of the world and came to hang on one, just for you. When you place the beautiful colored balls on your tree, remember the one who so loved this round ball called earth that he came to save people of every color. When you string the lights all around, remember the one who came to bring light to your life. When you place the gifts below the tree, remember the one who is the most "indescribable gift". Christmas is a time to remember.
Maybe this Christmas will be your favorite. It can be if you take time to spread out your hands to Jesus, and consider what his hands have done... they were pierced for you. Slow down, stop, and look for Jesus in every celebration of this glorious season. Christmas is a time to remember.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” - Revelation 7:14-17
The wars fought by our military over the last forty years have been questioned and protested against in so many ways. Our soldiers fought with courage and loyalty for their homeland and were often greeted with sneers and distain by those they fought to protect. One might be justified in asking if the cause was worth the sacrifice. This will never be the case for the Christian soldier. God honors those who honor him.
As we look at this passage carefully, we see more than the words "well done". The Lord promises a future of glory, honor, provision, peace and healing for his faithful army. The question will never be asked if the cause was worth the sacrifice. God honors those who honor him.
Be true to the Savior's cause today. The way may be rough and the rewards few. But remember that this world is not the land of promise. When the battles are done and the wars are behind us, we will be met, not with sneers and distain, but with love and gratitude. God honors those who honor him.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed." - Revelation 6:9-11
This morning, in the "News Room" of Voice of the Martyrs we read about persecution of fellow believers in China, Somalia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Columbia and India. The stories range from churches being closed to pastors being murdered in the presence of their families. According to one source, more than 200 million Christians in over 60 nations face persecution each day and between 150,000 and 165,000 are martyred each year. The question echoes across the years: How long, Sovereign Lord?
Christianity began at the cross with the death of our Savior. From that day on, believers have given their lives for "the word of God and the testimony they had maintained." But the day is coming when persecution will end and white robes will be given to the faithful. As we "wait a little longer", don't give up your faith or compromise the Word of God.
As you consider this passage today, please "Remember those in prison..." (Hebrews 13:3). Pray for your persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. And cherish the freedom you have to worship your Lord, live your faith and share the good news. Honor your Lord and his martyrs... Be bold for Jesus today!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain,and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” - Revelation 5:9-10
Presidential elections come and go, often with high expectations of a new day ahead. New CEOs arrive on the scene with hope for the future. Great leaders continue to rise and fall as time marches onward. Yet, the question still remains; is there someone who has what it takes to open the doors of the future and bring in a whole new world?
A new song was sung in heaven about a great leader who has already started to change the world. He has gathered people from every tribe, language, people and nation to be in his kingdom. He is worthy to lead because he paid the highest price so others would be worthy to serve and lead as well. Who is this leader you ask? He is the Lamb of God that takes away our sins... He is King Jesus.
Why look to men who are unworthy to open the scrolls of the future? Why expect men to change your world for the better? There is only one leader who is worthy of our confidence to give us hope for the future. Jesus said from the very beginning, "Follow Me". So, keep your eyes on Jesus, because he alone will truly "ROCK YOUR WORLD!"

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” - Revelation 4:8
I took a CPR course about 15 years ago. If you're in that kind of trouble today, don't look to me, because I don't remember enough to put in thimble. As time passed I failed to take refresher courses, so I lost the knowledge and skill. If we expect to be proficient in what we do, we need refresher courses. In the same way, if we expect to be spiritually effective we need refresher courses as well.
John saw the throne room of heaven, where the nature of God was spoken of repeatedly day and night. Have you ever wondered why? I believe it’s because all creation turns on this fact... “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” We must never forget this truth. It should run through our minds like blood through our hearts. It keeps before us the purity, power and presence of our God.
The more we are refreshed in our knowledge of God, the more we will depend on him. The more often we reflect on his nature, the more fully we will worship and honor him. The more that we think about who God is, the more we will be like him. We are only as spiritually moved as we are spiritually minded. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies." - Psalm 141:3-4
Over the years, I have watched seven friends who were church pastors drawn into devastating evil. They were forced to leave the pastorate because they ate the delicacies of sin. They were men who opened the Scriptures every week and taught the principles of integrity with conviction. I knew these men, and I believed they were godly men, so how do such men fail? Maybe they weren't praying defensively.
David was a man after God's own heart, yet he still prayed defensively. He knew where to turn for strength, for at any moment... he could be drawn into evil. When he prayed defensively he experienced victory. But even David eventually failed. Perhaps he forgot to pray defensively.
The Lord taught us a simple pattern of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount which included: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13) Let's begin each day acknowledging our weakness and acquiring His strength in defensive prayer. Remember, the best offense is a good defense.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." - Psalm 139:13-16
"Your time is up! Please put your pencils down." Oh how I hated to hear those words when I had more to write on a timed exam. There are many of us that believe there will always be more time to finish the work. We often have great ideas about how to do it, write it or say it... but later. Yet, there comes a time for all of us when we have to put our pencils down and our great ideas remain unrealized.
Our God-created lives are timed experiences. The Lord created us with profound purpose as he carefully knit us together in the womb. In the process he ordained all the days of our lives and wrote them in his book. The days and years will slip away until suddenly, without warning... "Your time is up! Please put your pencils down."
Do you understand and appreciate your God-given potential for this life? Are you aware that you have only so many days to accomplish his purpose? He won't call you home too early or too late, but your time is approaching. Yesterday is spent and tomorrow may never come; so today is all you have to live for God's glory. Make the very best of today for Jesus' sake, before "Your time is up!"

Friday, December 4, 2009

"These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." - Revelation 3:7-8
I graduated from the Word of Life Bible Institute in 1972. Our class verse was Revelation 3:8, because we believed the Lord had set before us an open door of ministry. Thirty-seven years have passed since we graduated and the door still remains open. The times have changed but the spiritual need of people remains the same and every morning brings new doors of opportunity.
Jesus opens a door of opportunity and ministry for every believer. When we are young, we may feel unprepared and overwhelmed with new opportunities. When we are older, we may feel worn down and outdated. But be encouraged, even when you have "little strength"... "no one can shut" the door that Jesus opens.
As you face a new day and a coming new year, are you looking for the open door that Jesus has placed before you? Keep his word, stay true to his name and walk through that door. Go make a difference for Jesus today!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first... I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first." - Revelation 2:4-5, 19 (NIV) 
In the film "The Patriot" an underlying theme contrasts the patriotic passions of a father and son. Age and experience had dampened the father's passion, while youth and idealism fired the son's. At the same time a phrase from the past is mentioned numerous times; "Stay the Course". As the story develops, the father comes to put his guilt, fears and reservations aside for a new vision and renewed patriotic passion. In the end, he was determined to "Stay the Course".
 As Jesus addressed the early churches, he found a similar contrast. One church had, through time and experience lost her first love, while another church, through love and faith did more than she did in the beginning. For the one church, time had taken its toll. For the other church, time had stoked the fire. Jesus commended the second church for staying the course.
Has recent experiences dampened your spiritual passion? Has time eaten away at your vision and drive for the kingdom of God? Are you doing more for the Lord today than when you first began? Remember, and return to your first love and... "Stay the Course"!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen. Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." - Revelation 1:6-7
My Dad worked hard for a living. He left in the morning at seven and didn't get back home until six. I looked forward to his arrival most days, but not always. When I was on course with school work and life in general, it was a joy to see his face. Then there were those days when I was haunted with my mother's words... "Just wait until your father gets home!" Oh, did I hope he would be late, but I knew that he was coming.
As the clock ticks away the hours and the calendar turns from months to years, we wonder when Jesus will come again. He is definitely coming, and he won't be late. Will it be a time of rejoicing for you or a time of mourning?  Those who have been freed from their sins are filled with anticipation, but those who have rejected the Savior are hoping he will be late.
Jesus is coming again, but not yet. His love still calls out to free you from your sins by his blood. You can enter his family today with great joy, anticipating his return. Why wait until it's too late?  Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands". - Psalm 138:6-8 (NIV)
We adopted our dog from an animal rescue shelter some years ago. The shelter had an experience at the time that touched my heart. They told of driving down a dirt road one rainy afternoon. Suddenly they spotted a mud covered domesticated rabbit, floundering in a gully on the roadside. They stopped, rescued the little fellow and brought him back to the shelter. In no time the sadly abandoned rabbit became a happy part of the shelter family. When this poor animal was at the end of his rope, someone reached down and preserved his life.
Have you ever found yourself floundering in the mud on the roadside? Have you felt hopelessly stuck in the midst of trouble? Well, know this... Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly. He will preserve your life and fulfill his purpose for you, because his love endures forever. Children of faith are the work of God's hands and he will never abandon them like so many people abandon their pets.
An important word in this passage is "Though". Be assured that God is never so high that he won't reach down to rescue and there is no trouble so great from which God can't deliver. The rains will come and the mud will be slippery, but... your love, O Lord, endures forever.